Hoping to give your home-cooked dinners a little pizzazz — without sacrificing nutrition? You’ve come to the right place! These creative and healthy pasta-based dinners offer a seemingly endless variety of options that your whole family will love. Best of all, this week’s worth of dishes all provide major health benefits.
Say goodbye to serving up the same old standards! Instead, serve up any of these 7 heart-healthy, satisfying, and savory pasta-based dishes.
Spinach Tortellini Soup
Sprinkled Side Up’s spinach tortellini soup boasts a variety of simple and nutrient-rich ingredients. The recipe calls for 6 cups of spinach, each cup of which totals in at just 7 calories. That same serving packs in 56% of your daily recommended intake for vitamin A, plus 14% of your recommended vitamin C intake, reports the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
On top of those health benefits, spinach helps transform this soup into one truly satisfying meal: “The fresh spinach compliments the mini spinach tortellini so nicely, and the beans add a really nice richness and creaminess to the soup,” raves Sprinkled Side Up. Cannellini beans also contribute to the soup’s nutritional quality; USDA data suggest that these beans are a great source of both protein and Vitamin C. One final note to health-conscious cooks: You can further cut down on soup’s sodium levels by using reduced-salt vegetable or chicken stock.
Kale and Lentil Pasta Salad With Maple Pecans
Will Frolic For Food observes that this dish is “high in protein, packed with dense nutritious greens, with lutein-rich tomatoes and buttery pecans folded in.” On top of its spectacular taste, the pasta salad is both gluten-free and vegan.
This dish garners a great deal of its nutritional value from kale. One cup of this veggie is packed with 3 grams protein, 2.5 grams fiber, along with vitamins A, C, and K, plus folate, WebMD reports. Lentils — with 9 grams of protein and 8 grams of fiber in each ½ cup — offer the meal yet another satisfying and savory boost. Light ingredients such as red peppers, onion, vinegar, and lime round out its exotic flavors, while Will Frolic For Food’s salted cayenne maple pecans provide a final delightful crunch.
Cheesy Pumpkin Bake
Savory and creamy — with just a tinge of sweetness — this recipe from Skinny Mom is unbelievably light and filling. It combines reduced-sodium broth, skim milk, light butter, and Greek yogurt to create a creamy and protein-rich cheese sauce. Combined with this, notes of nutmeg, allspice, and mustard powder make for a pleasing departure from the typically-mild pasta bake.
Next comes the addition of low-calorie pumpkin, which is teeming with nutritional benefits: One cup of canned pumpkin meat contains 3 grams of protein, 7 grams of fiber, plus a whopping 763% of your daily vitamin A intake, reports Nutrition Data.
Each heaping cupful of this cheesy pumpkin bake tallies in at 338 calories, 10 grams of protein, 11 grams of fiber, and 12% of your daily calcium intake.
Orzo With Tomato Braised Zucchini and Chickpeas
This orzo-based dish can be completed in under 40 minutes, providing a taste of simple and enjoyable Mediterranean flavors. The Mediterranean Dish’s recipe calls for zucchini, which offers generous amounts of protein, fiber, vitamin B6, and vitamin C, reports the USDA. The pasta salad also contains low-calorie tomatoes, which have been proven to contain valuable antioxidants (as confirmed by this study in Molecular Nutrition & Food Research).
The recipe also calls for chickpeas, a Mediterranean staple boasting high protein and fiber levels, reports the USDA. All of these ingredients wrap up neatly into one light and mouthwatering dinnertime dish.
Skinny Capellini Carbonara
We tend to associate carbonara with fattening ingredients — but the Suburban Soapbox’s take on the dish is a refreshing change of pace. Thin capellini noodles are smothered in a light garlic-cheese sauce, incorporating just enough of pancetta’s satisfyingly salty flavor to keep us satiated without overindulging.
Each cup-sized serving of the dish contains just 311 calories while offering 20.8 hearty grams of protein to keep you feeling satisfied for hours. You’ll also get a full 19% of your daily iron intake with each serving.
Vegetable Baked Ziti
Oh My Veggies explains that before she learned how to cook and measure her serving sizes, she and her husband would split an entire box of pasta — or 8 servings worth! Upon coming into her own in the kitchen, she realized that adding vegetables to a dish “makes that paltry two ounces of pasta go much further.” Your family will be 100% satisfied after chowing down on this this veggie baked ziti, which incorporates zucchini, mushrooms, and fat-free ricotta cheese for a protein- and vitamin-rich meal.
Oh My Veggies’s dish relies on the use of a whole-wheat penne — the Barilla variety offers 7 grams of protein and 6 grams of fiber per 2-ounce serving.
Herbed Chicken Alfredo with Broccoli
Bloat-inducing Alfredo dishes tend to leave us feeling as full of regret as they do pasta — but not this one. Yes To Yolks offers a solution that leaves the dish’s rich flavors intact, without delivering the negative nutritional effects of heavy cream and the like. Yes to Yolks explains that while you eat this dish, “You’re eating something rich and creamy…but with only a fraction of the fat and calories.” The secret lies in evaporated milk; by combining that key ingredient with a bit of butter and some choice spices, you’ll wind up with a light and utterly satisfying dish.
The addition of low-calorie broccoli and peas offers the dish bonus nutritional benefits — ones you wouldn’t likely find in its fatty counterparts. Both of these veggies are excellent sources of vitamins A and C, reports the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).